Those who come up the mountain may see us at work, a crew of figures moving rocks, flipping with bars, moving things in bags, and crushing rocks. They may know who we are and what we are doing. Or they may think we are mining for gold. Some come up the mountain and don’t see us at all. If they come at the right time they may see freshly moved boulders placed with intention in the trail. If they have an eye, they can catch the rock masking and the plugs we’ve put in. But sometimes they don’t even see that. They trudge up an eroded trail, not knowing that a few hundred feet away is a work in progress, a new trail forming in the talus.

work

But regardless of what they see, only a few truly understand. Many never form an inkling of the effort we put in. It’s much easier to think that we are not challenged. They consider it and ask if we live up there. How could we hike in every day? Perhaps we got there by helicopter, or at least our tools and materials did. Why would we bring all that up? How could we find all these seemingly perfect stairs in the surrounding area? Many are challenging themselves just to do the hike.

stairs1

The truth is that the challenge drives me, as it does many of us. That giant rectangular boulder energizes me. ‘Lets see if I can move that behemoth to crib in that stair. A gargoyle that large and heavy will never move.’ And slowly a beautiful lichen covered structure starts to form in the wild mishmash of the talus. Every morning I walk up and the trail gets longer. ‘Look I’m stepping on something I built, and I remember everything it took to get it there. I remember the loose rock in front of me ready to fall as I’m working, even the stair that did fall and almost took me out. I remember the wet bedrock, slick and slanted, and how a ton of raw, hard, grainy rock slid 10 feet right before my eyes. It rumbled down, and then just stopped, stagnant again, as if nothing had changed and it had been there in that same spot for a thousand years. I could only dream for the structures I make to stay in the same place for a thousand years.’

stairs

So is it God’s work? Is everything we put there somehow swayed into place by an omnipotent figure? I won’t pretend to know that. But I strive to achieve the level of perfection in my work that rests as if a God could have made it. Every day I meet a new experience, and a new challenge, and I am excited by it. I may not be able to say I love being pelted by hail in the fringed cold while trying to dig a bed, but I take it in. I feel it, shaking off the stiffness in my muscles. I defy it, enlivening myself again with a bellow from deep in my lungs. And at the end of it all I get this:

  • Something that never existed before, and now here it is. And more than any hiker that will come after, I get all the memories and experiences, all the sensations, all the emotion, everything that rolled, lifted, and crushed this trail into place.
  • It may be hard for a hiker to see how it came to be, or why we keep coming up every day and continuing the fight. For me it’s easy. I love it. This is my experience, my adventure. I share it with my nakama (Japanese for crew or buddies) surrounding me. And the mountain life continues to grow and thrive because of it.
  • Follow the link to check out a short clip of the Mt. Eolus crew eating lunch in the snow and wind. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQv5EPXzbUQ

goats

So enjoy the trail, and go see for yourself the new path that leads to the ridge of Mt. Eolus. And as your walking, use your own imagination to consider how it came to be. Who knows, maybe your wildest creation is not far off from what actually happened. Perhaps it was something like this:

It had been years and years. Aeolus, God of the wind has watched the mountain that shared his name. It had been that way since the 1800’s, and somewhere along the way people had forgotten. Many didn’t care. They started calling it Eolus. Many feet trampled the mountain. The trail was often ignored, and hikers trampled over the beautiful but fragile wildflowers. Waste was left and forgotten, never decomposing. Toilet paper blew into pika homes, and the infuriating goats ate everything that the urine touched. Erosion lead to more erosion and Aeolus’s mountain slowly deteriorated.

This had plagued Aeolus’s mind for to long. Some of the most inconsiderate hikers had been thrown off the ridge, falling to their deaths. Aeolus made sure of this. But still it wasn’t enough. More and more hikers came up the mountain every year. Hundreds left the train, or took a long trek from the nearest trailhead, and made there way to Mt. Eolus. What could be done to stop a swarm so large? Humans always had numbers on there side. Now it was 2016 and 7 billion people roamed the earth. Aeolus knew he couldn’t control them all.

So one day Aeolus picked a boulder he had been looking at for quite some time. It sat at the top of the ridge, loose and ready. A storm brewed in the sky, rain started pouring hard. And the mountain became slick and soaked. Aeolus sent a powerful gust into the boulder, breaking it free of the mountain. Gravity took it, and the boulder flew, smashing and tumbling its way into the talus below. The massive boulder loosened other rocks and the whole talus started to groan and rumble. Large and small rocks picked up speed, some of the flatter tables landed and stopped with a thud, while some of the ugliest most distorted-shaped gargoyles never stopped, making it all the way to the bottom. When the rockslide stopped, the talus seemed different. Looking further in one could see long and winding lichen covered staircases paving a path. Smaller rock was crushed down forming what looked like little tunnels with larger rock built up on either side. The old trail that went straight up the mountain was nowhere to be seen, buried and hidden under rock and upturned vegetation.

Aeolus looked at the new trail and was pleased. And the next morning he watched as the first headlamps beamed their way up from Twin Lakes, unaware of the fresh path that had been laid ahead of them.

Kevin Langevin

I’m Kevin Langevin. I started conservation/trail work with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and have been doing it for 6 years now. I have hiked many of the 14er, most recently Mt. Eolus (where I will be working all season), and Mt. Holy Cross. I have a degree in Communication, and enjoy making media almost as much as I love building with rocks.

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